Supporting Our Supporters

Valuing our Support Network

SAMSN recognises that a survivor’s recovery can be greatly assisted by the care they receive from family, friends and other supporters. You are valued allies in recovery.

SAMSN walks with survivors, their families and supporters, to provide practical and emotional support. Even if you are supporting a male survivor of child sexual abuse, but they aren’t yet ready to reach out, that’s okay, you can! Please feel welcome to contact us.

SAMSN offers a range of services and resources that might be beneficial to you: individual support and counselling, supporters and survivors workshops, and resources for supporters. Getting the balance right between understanding and supporting the survivor, whilst attending to your own needs can be challenging. We want to support you in your journey.

Valuing our Support Network

SAMSN recognises that a survivor’s recovery can be greatly assisted by the care they receive from family, friends and other supporters. You are valued allies in recovery.

SAMSN walks with survivors, their families and supporters, to provide practical and emotional support. Even if you are supporting a male survivor of child sexual abuse, but they aren’t yet ready to reach out, that’s okay, you can! Please feel welcome to contact us.

SAMSN offers a range of services and resources that might be beneficial to you: individual support and counselling, supporters and survivors workshops, and resources for supporters. Getting the balance right between understanding and supporting the survivor, whilst attending to your own needs can be challenging. We want to support you in your journey.

Here are a few things we have learnt that may be helpful

You are important
Know that relationships that are built on trust, respect and mutual care are foundational for healing and recovery from child sexual abuse.
Look after yourself
Knowing your own needs and finding ways to meet them is an important part of the journey with a survivor.
You need to tell your story too
Finding support for yourself from other supporters, your family and friends, and organizations like SAMSN can make a huge difference. Connection to others who travel a similar road can provide reassurance, a different perspective, hope and wisdom.
Understanding the impacts

The ripple effects of child sexual abuse can help in making sense of the journey of healing and recovery and your part in that. For more information check out our Resources section.

You may feel pressure

“From yourself or from others” to take responsibility for your survivor’s wellbeing. Whilst you can walk alongside him, you are not responsible for him.

Your role as a supporter

Often when you are supporting someone you care for or love, it is easy to become a “fixer”. Though survivors may be vulnerable, it isn’t our job to protect them or prevent them from choosing their own paths. We can simply be there, throughout the journey. 

It is a two-way street

Whilst also giving support, you will learn a great deal from survivors about resilience and dealing with life’s challenges.

Supporter's Common Concerns

Do I need to know what happened in order to be helpful? I’m worried I’ll say the wrong thing.

Whilst some survivors are able to talk about the abuse, many are not. Finding language for what happened can give rise to some very strong feelings such as shame, anger, fear, distress that might not have words.  Memories, ‘flashbacks’ or triggers (things in the present that evoke associations with the abuse experience) to aspects of the abuse, can also come out of nowhere. For many survivors, creating a narrative about the abuse, making meaning of what was done to them, and understanding oneself can be a long process.

This can be a difficult place for supporters to be in. In the absence of detail, we can try to imagine what might have happened. You definitely don’t need to know all the details to be a supporter, but having some idea of:

*  context of the abuse ( e.g. home, school, community),

* relationship to offender ( e.g. teacher, family member, neighbor, another child or young person) and

* the experience of any previous disclosing can be helpful. We know that the response a survivor receives when they first disclose is so critical to their ongoing wellbeing. A believing, affirming response can be a turning point in healing and rebuilding trust in others. On the other hand, denial, blame or dismissal can have far reaching negative impacts on a survivor’s wellbeing, trust, and life trajectory. A survivor’s experience of disclosing is important to understand and guide your own response.

LISTEN | BELIEVE | WALK ALONGSIDE You can’t undo the abuse, but you can listen deeply without question and interruption. Your encouragement, understanding and support through the ups and downs of the journey is what is valued most.

This video clip from Brene Brown on Empathy is a warm and wise reflection on supporting someone who is struggling. The Power of Empathy

What about my own personal response to hearing someone’s disclosure?

There are many possible feelings and reactions to being told someone you care about has experienced child sexual abuse. You may be shocked, overwhelmed, distressed, angry, questioning why you didn’t know or why they didn’t tell you before, you may even find it hard to believe or take in. For some parents, feelings of guilt in not protecting their child, can be overwhelming.

These responses are to be expected and can precipitate a roller coaster of emotions. One of the challenges can be what to do with this knowledge and your responses to it. For example you may be outraged and angry and want to take action such as reporting it or confronting the perpetrator, or you may be distressed and need to talk to someone.

It can be very difficult to hold what you have been told and not share your responses with anyone else. You will need to talk with the survivor about who you could share it with, such as another trusted person, or a counsellor.

How do you ask for support or attend to your own needs when you feel bad about leaning on the other?

Many of us have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. When we know that others are dealing with bigger issues and needs, we can minimize our own. They can feel ‘petty’ next to the effects a survivor might be dealing with. Many supporters don’t ask for support themselves out of concern for not overloading the survivor. Whilst it is true that survivors are sometimes overwhelmed and find it difficult to connect with  those around them, that is not always the case. Survivors know the value of good support and are capable and willing to offer it, finding meaning in reaching out to help others. They don’t want to be a burden to other people, in fact responding to others’ needs gives meaning and purpose to living.

It can help to be clear about what your needs are and what you are asking of the survivor. For example, rather than ‘I need support too’ more specific statements such as Í need to take a few hours to attend to my own needs and I would value your support to do this’ is a clearer message. This ensures statements or actions aren’t open to misinterpretation.

Many supporters are also survivors. This can be both an advantage and a challenge. Having someone close to you who ‘gets it’ can be helpful- not having to explain the impacts, understanding why you might respond in a certain way, can brings a deep sense of connection. Challenges can also occur around different needs. Survivors are a diverse group, and this extends to their diversity in experience of abuse and responses to it. There is a risk that as a supporter you might minimize your own needs and prioritize others needs over your own. This can sometimes happen when your experience of the abuse has lead you to understand that you are not entitled to protection and care but are responsible to service the needs of others and carry the burden of secrecy.

Survivors supporting each other are challenged with building a safe, trusting relationship that allows space for each other for mutual listening, sharing and supporting the other in the roller coaster journey that is healing.

He shuts down and I feel helpless and don’t know how to help.

Survivors sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotions or flashbacks, having no words for what is happening inside thier head and or body, feeling out of control, or just becoming numb. This can leave you feeling helpless.

It may not be possible to explain what is happening.  Attempting to address needs or supports during times of heightened emotion or panic, can be really difficult and often very stressful for both parties.

Sometimes the survivor needs some time alone, at other times more active support is needed, such as helping to become  present in the moment, aided by physical touch, talking about the here and now, a walk in the fresh air, etc.

Having a plan around this together is useful.  When the survivor feels they can comfortably discuss their needs, this can be a good time to talk about, what might be helpful for you to try, if and when that experience occurs again.

A survivor may not always be aware of what would be helpful and sometimes it can take ongoing practice or reaching out to other survivors or supports to see what has helped others.

You are not responsible for providing a solution, but for helping them to come up with their own.

I don’t know what to do when he becomes angry and I feel scared.

Anger is a useful emotion when it’s expressed safely. Survivors and supporters of child sexual abuse have every right to feel angry about what was done to them. Expressing that in a way that harms or threatens another person’s safety and wellbeing in NOT okay. You have a right to be and feel safe.

Anger is first and foremost a feeling. It is often noticed in our body as tightness, heat, clenching of jaw, hands or muscles, rising blood pressure, pounding in your head. For many survivors it occurs in response to ‘triggers’ or events that evoke a strong feeling. It can bring up images and memories from the past associated with strong emotions and send signals to the brain to go into ‘fight’ mode.

Feelings of anger seek expression in actions. It is usually the actions of anger rather than the feelings and thoughts, that cause us and those around us harm. Anger is sometimes a mask over another emotion, that in that moment is too overwhelming to experience, and so is replaced with anger in a bid to protect oneself from feeling vulnerable or exposed. Anger can also become a problem if it becomes a habitual reaction to all of life’s challenges, and leads to breakdown in relationships, and communication, and aggressive behaviour. You are responsible for managing your feelings, including anger.

As a supporter, you are n ot responsible for managing the survivor’s anger. Yet you may be on the receiving end of it, verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually. You may also feel concerned that the anger may express itself in self-harm or reckless behaviour.

Those who express their anger in harmful actions towards others or themselves need to seek help. SAMSN can assist in obtaining the professional and peer support to deal with anger and its impacts.

For your own safety it is important to know your limits and set clear boundaries about what behaviour you will and won’t accept. When it is an easier time to have a conversation with the survivor about the way you are feeling and discuss means the survivor has to manage anger without it impacting on you or others. This might include taking some ‘time out’, exercise, talking to a mate or a support service, having an agreed plan.

SAMSN encourages any supporter who needs to talk about their concerns, is feeling unsafe or worried about a survivor’s expression of anger to make contact with us, or to utilize one of the 24-hour support services. Some specialists 24-hour services include: Mensline – 1800 789 978 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732

How could I NOT have known?

Many family members, particularly parents, ask themselves this question. The majority of parents, and other family and friends did not know this was happening to their child. Many blame themselves for not knowing. Sometimes survivors are angry with parents for not knowing and failing to protect them.

The clearest explanation as to why you didn’t know is found in understanding the offender’s tactics, sometimes referred to as the ‘grooming process’. In most cases, for offenders to abuse a child, they need to gain the child’s trust, ensure they don’t tell, and make them feel responsible and complicit in the abuse. Offenders often ‘groom’ others around the child, such as family members. For example, they may present as trustworthy and build rapport and trust with a family or use their position of privilege and power to gain access to children. These tactics often ensure that the child or young person cannot tell anyone using tactics such as they won’t believe you. you wanted it’. 

Family and friends are not able to see what is happening  ‘I thought his moodiness was just normal teenage behaviour. I couldn’t believe he would do that to my child, he was such a good person.

There can also be other barriers to ‘knowing’ a child is being abused such as parents trust in other adults, parents not knowing what to look for, other explanations for a child’s  behaviour, compounding major life issues, and parents own stresses. The question of did my family know or do something to protect me can be a source of great tension and pain between survivors and their loved ones. Addressing this often takes courage, time and professional help to unravel the dynamics of child sexual abuse. Click here for more information on Grooming

I’m worried about his mental health.

Survivors are just that …survivors…

They have found ways to manage the effects of the abuse across their life and are resourceful and resilient. They also have times in their lives when they know the source of the problem but cannot voluntarily diminish the effects by an act of will. Some feelings can impact on survivor’s mental wellbeing. These include not feeling in control, being emotionally vulnerable, feeling deep shame and worthlessness, being fearful. experiencing flashbacks and sleep disturbance, being triggered, dissociating, remembering for some the list can be long.

Sometimes the strategies employed to manage the effects become a secondary problem, such as self-sabotage, avoidance, isolating, overreliance on drugs and alcohol, addictions to overwork, gambling, sex. It is understandable that at times this can be overwhelming and result in deteriorating mental wellbeing.

As a supporter you can also feel helpless, and sometimes desperate, to change things. This is particularly so when the survivor doesn’t want to seek help and withdraws further. It can also be difficult to find appropriate professional help when you need it.

This is not something you should have to manage alone.

SAMSN has a Planned Support team who can assist. Helping find and accessing appropriate trauma informed mental health services, talking to other survivors or supporters, or locating resources to help you through 24/7 is what SAMSN does. If you are concerned that your survivor may be suicidal, you will find this guide from Lifeline helpful. Helping someone at risk of suicide 

How do I attend to my own vicarious trauma?

Vicarious trauma is a term that usually is applied to therapists and counsellors who work professionally with survivors.  It refers to the ‘secondary’ trauma that can occur when you work with survivors of interpersonal trauma. For instance, hearing from a survivor about experiences of abuse and violence can impact powerfully. They may stay with you and potentially make you hypervigilant about your own safety, or the safety of the survivor. Another common example of vicarious trauma is experiencing anxiety, flashbacks or fears about the safety and wellbeing of the survivor. In other words, trauma can be transferable to some degree.

Supporters of survivors may also experience vicarious trauma. Knowing what has happened to someone you care deeply about can stay with you. When the survivor is struggling with the legacies of abuse such as unstable emotions, erratic behaviour, or withdrawal and isolation, you may feel that to some degree also. It is important to validate that these responses are real.

Just as survivors must find a path through this, you also must value your responses and needs. Being kind to yourself, taking care not to ignore your own needs, attending to these needs, seeking support from those who understand, and being clear about your boundaries and limits is important in the everyday and in the longer journey.

You may find it useful to talk to a professional counsellor who works with survivors and their families and friends and other supporters. SAMSN can help with this. It can be a challenge to work out what you share of these impacts with your survivor. Choosing the right time, creating good communication (listening to hear each other not just listening to respond), and sharing both the impacts on you but also what resilience you have seen in the survivor, can be helpful.

Vicarious resilience is also important to notice and acknowledge. This is the “transferable resilience’’ that comes from learning from survivors.  You may  already be aware of what he did to survive and continue on with his life, both in childhood and later life, eg avoiding the perpetrator, trying to tell someone, finding ways to overcome the impacts , seeking help and/or justice, getting up each day when its tough. As supporters, we can learn much about how to survive and cope with the struggles of getting through tough times and learning to trust, be safe and risking connection with self and others.

Do I need to know what happened in order to be helpful? I’m worried I’ll say the wrong thing.
Whilst some survivors are able to talk about the abuse, many are not. Finding language for what happened can give rise to some very strong feelings such as shame, anger, fear, distress that might not have words.  Memories, ‘flashbacks’ or triggers (things in the present that evoke associations with the abuse experience) to aspects of the abuse, can also come out of nowhere. For many survivors, creating a narrative about the abuse, making meaning of what was done to them, and understanding oneself can be a long process. This can be a difficult place for supporters to be in. In the absence of detail, we can try to imagine what might have happened. You definitely don’t need to know all the details to be a supporter, but having some idea of context of the abuse ( e.g. home, school, community), relationship to offender ( e.g. teacher, family member, neighbor, another child or young person) and the experience of any previous disclosing can be helpful. We know that the response a survivor receives when they first disclose is so critical to their ongoing wellbeing. A believing, affirming response can be a turning point in healing and rebuilding trust in others. On the other hand, denial, blame or dismissal can have far reaching negative impacts on a survivor’s wellbeing, trust, and life trajectory. A survivor’s experience of disclosing is important to understand and guide your own response. LISTEN | BELIEVE | WALK ALONGSIDE You can’t undo the abuse, but you can listen deeply without question and interruption. Your encouragement, understanding and support through the ups and downs of the journey is what is valued most. This video clip from Brene Brown on Empathy is a warm and wise reflection on supporting someone who is struggling. The Power of Empathy
What about my own personal response to hearing someone’s disclosure?

There are many possible feelings and reactions to being told someone you care about has experienced child sexual abuse. You may be shocked, overwhelmed, distressed, angry, questioning why you didn’t know or why they didn’t tell you before, you may even find it hard to believe or take in. For some parents, feelings of guilt in not protecting their child, can be overwhelming. These responses are to be expected and can precipitate a roller coaster of emotions. One of the challenges can be what to do with this knowledge and your responses to it. For example, you may be outraged and angry and want to take action such as reporting it or confronting the perpetrator, or you may be distressed and need to talk to someone. It can be very difficult to hold what you have been told and not share your responses with anyone else. You will need to talk with the survivor about who you could share it with, such as another trusted person, or a counsellor.

How do you ask for support or attend to your own needs when you feel bad about leaning on the other?

Many of us have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. When we know that others are dealing with bigger issues and needs, we can minimize our own. They can feel ‘petty’ next to the effects a survivor might be dealing with. Many supporters don’t ask for support themselves out of concern for not overloading the survivor. Whilst it is true that survivors are sometimes overwhelmed and find it difficult to connect with  those around them, that is not always the case. Survivors know the value of good support and are capable and willing to offer it, finding meaning in reaching out to help others. They don’t want to be a burden to other people, in fact responding to others’ needs gives meaning and purpose to living. It can help to be clear about what your needs are and what you are asking of the survivor. For example, rather than ‘I need support too’ more specific statements such as Í need to take a few hours to attend to my own needs and I would value your support to do this’ is a clearer message. This ensures statements or actions aren’t open to misinterpretation. Many supporters are also survivors. This can be both an advantage and a challenge. Having someone close to you who ‘gets it’ can be helpful- not having to explain the impacts, understanding why you might respond in a certain way, can brings a deep sense of connection. Challenges can also occur around different needs. Survivors are a diverse group, and this extends to their diversity in experience of abuse and responses to it. There is a risk that as a supporter you might minimize your own needs and prioritize others’ needs over your own. This may be a legacy of your experience the abuse that you are not entitled to protection and care but are tasked with being responsible to service others needs and carry the burden of secrecy. Survivors supporting each other are challenged with building a safe, trusting relationship that allows space for each other for mutual listening, sharing and supporting the other in the roller coaster journey that is healing.

How do you ask for support or attend to your own needs when you feel bad about leaning on the other?

Many of us have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. When we know that others are dealing with bigger issues and needs, we can minimize our own. They can feel ‘petty’ next to the effects a survivor might be dealing with. Many supporters don’t ask for support themselves out of concern for not overloading the survivor. Whilst it is true that survivors are sometimes overwhelmed and find it difficult to connect with  those around them, that is not always the case. Survivors know the value of good support and are capable and willing to offer it, finding meaning in reaching out to help others. They don’t want to be a burden to other people, in fact responding to others’ needs gives meaning and purpose to living. It can help to be clear about what your needs are and what you are asking of the survivor. For example, rather than ‘I need support too’ more specific statements such as Í need to take a few hours to attend to my own needs and I would value your support to do this’ is a clearer message. This ensures statements or actions aren’t open to misinterpretation. Many supporters are also survivors. This can be both an advantage and a challenge. Having someone close to you who ‘gets it’ can be helpful- not having to explain the impacts, understanding why you might respond in a certain way, can brings a deep sense of connection. Challenges can also occur around different needs. Survivors are a diverse group, and this extends to their diversity in experience of abuse and responses to it. There is a risk that as a supporter you might minimize your own needs and prioritize others’ needs over your own. This may be a legacy of your experience the abuse that you are not entitled to protection and care but are tasked with being responsible to service others needs and carry the burden of secrecy. Survivors supporting each other are challenged with building a safe, trusting relationship that allows space for each other for mutual listening, sharing and supporting the other in the roller coaster journey that is healing.

He shuts down and I feel helpless and don’t know how to help.
The helplessness you may feel is often felt very strongly by the survivor too: feeling overwhelmed by emotions or flashbacks, having no words for what is happening inside your head and/ or body, feeling out of control, or just becoming numb. It is sometimes not possible to explain what is happening.  Attempting to address needs or supports during times of heightened emotion or panic, can be really difficult and often very stressful for both parties. Sometimes the survivor needs some time alone, at other times more active support is needed, such as helping to become  present in the moment, aided by physical touch, talking about the here and now, a walk in the fresh air, etc. Having a plan around this together is useful.  When the survivor feels they can comfortably discuss their needs, this can be a good time to talk about, what might be helpful for you to try, if and when that experience occurs again. A survivor may not always be aware of what would be helpful and sometimes it can take ongoing practice or reaching out to other survivors or supports to see what has helped others. You are not responsible for providing a solution, but for helping them to come up with their own. When the survivor is able to talk, this can be a good time to discuss what would be helpful for you to do if and when that ‘shut down’ experience occurs again.
I don’t know what to do when he becomes angry and I feel scared.
Survivors and supporters of child sexual abuse have every right to feel angry about what was done to them. Anger is a useful emotion when it’s expressed safely. Expressing that in a way that harms or threatens another person’s safety and wellbeing in NOT okay. You have a right to be and feel safe. Anger is first and foremost a feeling. It is often noticed in our body as tightness, heat, clenching of jaw, hands or muscles, rising blood pressure, pounding in your head. For many survivors it occurs in response to ‘triggers’ or events that evoke a strong feeling. It can bring up images and memories from the past associated with strong emotions and send signals to the brain to go into ‘fight’ mode. Feelings of anger seek expression in actions. It is usually the actions of anger rather than the feelings and thoughts, that cause us and those around us harm. Anger is sometimes a mask over another emotion, that in that moment is too overwhelming to experience, and so is replaced with anger in a bid to protect oneself from feeling vulnerable or exposed. Anger can also become a problem if it becomes a habitual reaction to all of life’s challenges, and leads to breakdown in relationships, and communication, and aggressive behaviour. You are responsible for managing your feelings, including anger. As a supporter, you are not responsible for managing the survivor’s anger. Yet you may be on the receiving end of it, verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually. You may also feel concerned that the anger may express itself in self-harm or reckless behaviour. Those who express their anger in harmful actions towards others or themselves need to seek help. SAMSN can assist in obtaining the professional and peer support to deal with anger and its impacts. For your own safety it is important to know your limits and set clear boundaries about what behaviour you will and won’t accept. When it is an easier time to have a conversation with the survivor about the way you are feeling and discuss means the survivor has to manage anger without it impacting on you or others. This might include taking some ‘time out’, exercise, talking to a mate or a support service, having an agreed plan. SAMSN encourages any supporter who needs to talk about their concerns, is feeling unsafe or worried about a survivor’s expression of anger to make contact with us, or to utilize one of the 24-hour support services. Some specialists 24-hour services include: Mensline – 1800 789 978 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
How could I not have known?
Many family members, particularly parents, ask themselves this question. The majority of parents, and other family and friends did not know this was happening to their child. Many blame themselves for not knowing. Sometimes survivors are angry with parents for not knowing and failing to protect them. The clearest explanation as to why you didn’t know is found in understanding the offender’s tactics, sometimes referred to as the ‘grooming process’. In most cases, for offenders to abuse a child, they need to gain the child’s trust, ensure they don’t tell, and make them feel responsible and complicit in the abuse. Offenders often ‘groom’ others around the child, such as family members. For example, they may present as trustworthy and build rapport and trust with a family or use their position of privilege and power to gain access to children. These tactics often ensure that the child or young person cannot tell anyone using tactics such as they won’t believe you. you wanted it’. Family and friends are not able to see what is happening  ‘I thought his moodiness was just normal teenage behaviour. I couldn’t believe he would do that to my child, he was such a good person. There can also be other barriers to ‘knowing’ a child is being abused such as parents trust in other adults, parents not knowing what to look for, other explanations for a child’s  behaviour, compounding major life issues, and parents’ own stresses. The question of did my family know or do something to protect me can be a source of great tension and pain between survivors and their loved ones. Addressing this often takes courage, time and professional help to unravel the dynamics of child sexual abuse. Click here for more information on Grooming
I’m worried about his mental health.

Survivors are just that “survivors”. They have found ways to manage the effects of the abuse across their life and are resourceful and resilient. They also have times in their lives when they know the source of the problem but cannot voluntarily diminish the effects by an act of will. Some feelings can impact on survivor’s mental wellbeing. These include not feeling in control, being emotionally vulnerable, feeling deep shame and worthlessness, being fearful. experiencing flashbacks and sleep disturbance, being triggered, dissociating, remembering for some the list can be long. Sometimes the strategies employed to manage the effects become a secondary problem, such as self-sabotage, avoidance, isolating, overreliance on drugs and alcohol, addictions to overwork, gambling, sex. It is understandable that at times this can be overwhelming and result in deteriorating mental wellbeing. As a supporter you can also feel helpless, and sometimes desperate, to change things. This is particularly so when the survivor doesn’t want to seek help and withdraws further. It can also be difficult to find appropriate professional help when you need it. This is not something you should have to manage alone. SAMSN has a Planned Support team who can assist. Helping find and accessing appropriate trauma informed mental health services, talking to other survivors or supporters, or locating resources to help you through 24/7 is what SAMSN does. If you are concerned that your survivor may be suicidal, you will find this guide from Lifeline helpful. Helping someone at risk of suicide 

How do I attend to my own vicarious trauma?

Vicarious trauma is a term that usually is applied to therapists and counsellors who work professionally with survivors.  It refers to the ‘secondary’ trauma that can occur when you work with survivors of interpersonal trauma. For instance, hearing from a survivor about experiences of abuse and violence can impact powerfully. They may stay with you and potentially make you hypervigilant about your own safety, or the safety of the survivor. Another common example of vicarious trauma is experiencing anxiety, flashbacks or fears about the safety and wellbeing of the survivor. In other words, trauma can be transferable to some degree. Supporters of survivors may also experience vicarious trauma. Knowing what has happened to someone you care deeply about can stay with you. When the survivor is struggling with the legacies of abuse such as unstable emotions, erratic behaviour, or withdrawal and isolation, you may feel that to some degree also. It is important to validate that these responses are real. Just as survivors must find a path through this, you also must value your responses and needs. Being kind to yourself, taking care not to ignore your own needs, attending to these needs, seeking support from those who understand, and being clear about your boundaries and limits is important in the everyday and in the longer journey. You may find it useful to talk to a professional counsellor who works with survivors and their families and friends and other supporters. SAMSN can help with this. It can be a challenge to work out what you share of these impacts with your survivor. Choosing the right time, creating good communication (listening to hear each other not just listening to respond), and sharing both the impacts on you but also what resilience you have seen in the survivor, can be helpful. Vicarious resilience is also important to notice and acknowledge. This is the “transferable resilience’’ that comes from learning from survivors.  You may  already be aware of what he did to survive and continue on with his life, both in childhood and later life, eg avoiding the perpetrator, trying to tell someone, finding ways to overcome the impacts , seeking help and/or justice, getting up each day when its tough. As supporters, we can learn much about how to survive and cope with the struggles of getting through tough times and learning to trust, be safe and risking connection with self and others.

Tips for Good Communication

R

Check in with how the other person is travelling.

How was your week? What did you think about?  Is there anything that’s been on your mind it would be good for me to know?

R

Clarify that you understand what the person is saying.

Are you saying that you felt? and am I right in thinking you are feeling?

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Listen to understand, not listen to reply.

Practice listening without interruption.

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Acknowledge progress when you see it.

Notice the positives and give feedback on these things ‘I love the way you’ or ‘Thank you for helping with that’ or ‘I’ve noticed how much you’ve changed since doing that course’

R

Own your own feelings.

I have been feeling sad when you are not around rather than you are never there for me.

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Acknowledge fallibility.

No-one is perfect, but when we are at our most stressed and vulnerable, we can feel immense pressure to get everything right. Admitting that you sometimes make mistakes gives the survivor the space and confidence to discuss their own.

What Our Supporters Say

SAMSN acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live and work. We pay our respect to Past, Present and Future Elders.

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